Lots of information is available about planting trees – but less about repairing
remnants. Here are some hints to start you working out things for yourself.
The best way to rehabilitate remnants is to use nature’s own recovery capacities
Don’t rush in and plant. This is often our first instinct because we know that is something that we can do well. Planting is all-important where natural regeneration capacity is low, but in areas where natural regeneration is possible, it may not help and can even hinder.
Who’s the boss around here?
It is important to realise that no amount of well-intentioned work will make bushland recover if it is the wrong kind of help. We are not the boss. The boss is the vegetation itself – whose potential and limits are set by its own biological recovery capacity.
All plants have some sort of biological recovery capacity
This capacity developed over millenia of having to recover from natural disturbances – and it is important to realize that it is often hidden under the ground, in the form of buried seeds or suppressed rootstocks – or in potential for the above ground vegetation to expand and reproduce. This natural resilience means that (if not already too damaged) bushland usually has at least some capacity to recover from human damage too, given the right conditions or the right kinds of help.
So the key is to look at what might trigger your remnant’s resilience before rushing in with an unsuitable treatment. Working with this resilience produces best results, but if it is depleted, planting or direct seeding can be keys to trigger natural processes.
Learn to read the signs of hidden resilience.
The mechanisms of resilience after high impacts often differ for different vegetation types because of the different natural disturbances traditionally occurring in that vegetation type. But they usually involve either resprouting or recovering from stored seed
For instance, a subset of species of woodland (which evolved in the presence of fire) can store seed in the soil; with others storing seed in their canopies, protected by woody fruits and resprouting from well-protected, often even buried, buds. But rainforest trees (which evolved without fire) don’t store seed in the canopy or (except for pioneers) the soil. They can, however, often remain in suspended animation as seedling and sapling “banks”.
Try a few things in a small section of the site first
Spell the site from grazing or slashing for a start and see what happens – but be ready to remove weeds (and their progeny, which will inevitably increase at first) to release native plants and potential regeneration niches. There are also more active things you can do to trigger natural regeneration, depending on plant community.
‘Follow up’ repeatedly to consolidate the recovery of a smaller patch before moving on to the next patch
Produced by Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (North Coast NSW / SEQld)
P.O. BOX 1124 Lismore. NSW 2480. Enquiries: 02 6682 2885.